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Hush is the first exciting full-length work penned by local actor and writer, Ciella Williams. It tells the story of Nina, whose waters have broken at 23 weeks, just one week shy of the termination deadline in the Northern Territory.

By Tierney Seccull 

Co-presented by Sydney’s New Ghosts Theatre Company and Darwin’s own Brown’s Mart Theatre, Hush delivers a punch to the guts with immediacy and an authentic Territory edge, and stars incredible performers and artistry from across the continent.

The work was developed after New Ghosts’ director Lucy Clements identified a gap in casting opportunities for young women in main roles of theatre productions.

“Lucy started a collective called the Ignite Collective, which is kind of an offshoot of her theatre company,” Ciella says.

“That came about because she realised, at auditions, there would be say five males to audition for main role, but for smaller female roles, there would be over 50 applicants. And they were all incredible – NIDA grads, incredibly talented young women, desperate for these tiny roles. So, she started the Collective to make works for women under 30.”

Ciella was approached after one of the young female playwrights engaged in the initiative pulled out. Seeking advice from Fraser Corfield, Artistic Director of the Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP), Lucy landed on Ciella, the two now friends from their previous time working through ATYP programs.

“Because I had done a couple of programs with ATYP … he’d read a couple of my works – a monologue and a short play – and he suggested me, which was very nice of him. But he said ‘oh, well, she’s pregnant, so she’ll probably say no!’,” Ciella says.

“I got a call from Lucy who was like ‘hi, I know you’re pregnant, but I’ve got something to pitch to you,’ and I was like, ‘hi, I actually give birth six days ago!”

Despite the timing, the stars aligned, Ciella joining the ranks of the Ignite Collective, her work casting five women under the age of 30 in lead roles. The non-biographical work was crafted in her early days of becoming a mother, the haze of new parenthood helping to capitalise on her precious moments with the pen.

“I think, in ways that I didn’t expect, it helped me to cut through the noise. When I would get a bit of time to myself, I was able – more than I had been in the past – to turn off any critical voice and just write. I didn’t have time to f-ck around or procrastinate, I just had to write,” she laughs.

“I think, as strange as it sounds, the sleep deprivation helped. I would be awake at all hours of the night, and I think that can put your brain into a pretty weird headspace. I’ve always been interested in magic and surreal themes in theatre, and I think being very sleep deprived allowed some weird ideas to pop up that maybe wouldn’t have normally.”

Hush premiered in Sydney in February, but the playwright says any nerves about seeing her first full-length work were quickly eased.

“I flew to Sydney to see it, and I was so nervous, but it was really fun. I love that theatre is so collaborative ... I was able to just really enjoy watching it, there were so many parts that I didn’t know about it yet. How the lighting and the sound brought things to life, and how the actors interpreted it – they’re all so good – I got quite swept away in it.”

And although it’s a non-biographical work, she says she does feel a little more nervous about seeing it in her hometown.

“It’s kind of like being naked on stage in your hometown,” she laughs.

“I think that, sometimes, people look for the true story in theatre, and that becomes scary in a hometown. This is not the relationship I have with my mother or my partner, but there are some parts of my life and thought processes in the play. I think there is something other parents will be able to relate to.”

COST $20-$42

Thumbnail, header & inset: Photos: Clare Hawley

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